Forests - threats

Around the world, lush tropical forests are being logged for timber and pulp, cleared to grow food, and destroyed by the impacts of climate change. Four fifths of the forest that covered almost half of the Earth's land surface eight thousand years ago have already been irreplaceably degraded or destroyed.

Cattle Paths in the Amazon

Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football pitch is lost due to logging or destructive practices. Seventy two per cent of Indonesia's intact forest landscapes and 15 per cent of the Amazon's have already been lost forever. Now the Congo's forests face the same threat.

While the causes vary from region to region, they all have one thing in common: human activity. Through agriculture and logging, mining and climate change, humankind is wiping out irreplaceable forests - and the life that depends on them - at a terrifying pace.

View of the Amazon from above. This 1645 hectare area has been logged to plant soy.

Agri-business is responsible for massive rainforest destruction as forests are burned to make way for cattle ranches, or cleared for palm oil or soya plantations. In this way, irreplaceable rainforests are converted into products that are used to make toothpaste, chocolate and animal feed.

Industrial logging for timber, pulp and paper has also devastated much of the world's rainforests. Not only are ancient trees cut down on a vast scale, but unplanned and inefficient practices lead to enormous additional wastage. And, by building roads into pristine rainforests, the logging industry opens them up to secondary effects like human settlement, hunting, fuel-wood gathering and agriculture.

Today, forests face another threat. Deforestation contributes to climate change (overall, it accounts for one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions - which is why Indonesia is the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter and Brazil the fourth). At the same time, climate change itself threatens forests on a terrifying scale.

Rising global temperatures damage and kill trees, and increase drought and forest fires. Dying trees release still more carbon, which further increases our global temperature. This cycle of forest collapse represents a critical feedback loop that could drive warming for centuries, change life cycles on Earth, and usher in a sweeping transformation of human civilisation. The surest way to stop it is to end deforestation.

Pristine forests near Manokwari in West Papua, the last frontier of intact ancient forest in Indonesia

Greenpeace is campaigning for zero deforestation globally by 2020 because protecting forests is one of the quickest and most effective ways to prevent climate change, protect biodiversity and defend the rights of forest communities.

To realise this vision, the international community, corporations, forest communities and individuals in consumer countries will need to work together in an unprecedented, concerted effort. You can read more about the solutions to forest destruction here.

The latest updates

 

Destructive palm oil company IOI let off the hook too easily by RSPO

Blog entry by Annisa Rahmawati | 10 August, 2016 1 comment

A major palm oil company, which had its sustainability certificates suspended for violating rules designed to prevent the destruction of Indonesia's forests and peatlands, has had those certificates reinstated. This shocking decision...

News worth celebrating! Megadam in the heart of Amazon cancelled

Blog entry by Danicley Aguiar | 5 August, 2016 2 comments

This Wednesday, I had barely had breakfast when I was surprised by some absolutely amazing news: the Brazilian environmental agency – IBAMA – announced it would cancel the process for licensing the São Luiz do Tapajós (SLT) megadam...

#WorldOnFire: Forest-fire smog has no borders

Blog entry by Khalimat Tekeeva | 28 July, 2016 2 comments

The vast, lush, green of Siberia’s forests is black and smouldering. The fires rage on, already scorching an area the size of Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands combined - seven million hectares. I can see the haze 4500km away...

The Soy Moratorium, 10 years on: How one commitment is stopping Amazon destruction

Blog entry by Paulo Adario | 27 July, 2016

A decade ago, the expansion of soybeans posed an enormous risk to the Amazon rainforest. Today, this commitment proves zero deforestation is possible. When civil society, private enterprise and governments come together to...

They murdered my mother for defending the environment — help me seek justice

Blog entry by Salvador Edgardo Zuniga Cáceres | 14 July, 2016

It has been four months since the murder of environmental and Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, and her killers have still  not been brought to justice. Instead, the violence continues  – o n 7 July, another activist from...

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